We live in a time when all the epochs blend: it’s the axial age of global social and political transformations, it is the middle ages, with their fragmentarium of beliefs in wonders and aberrations, the Renaissance of humanist tendencies, and the industrial age, all at once. A time of abject material and spiritual poverty and luxuriant growth.
In no age have differences lived closer to each other and never has the violence of making them disappear been exercised with more intensity. Some analysts show this to be done in the name of harmony, coherence and seeming logic. Take for example Alexandra Ourousoff and her brilliant book, Wall Street at War. It is an anthropologist’s analysis of the encounter between big business managers and the analysts employed by credit rating agencies, which in fact, is a conflict between two kinds of logic: one, in line with traditional capitalism, which says that in order to have profits, it is necessary to take risks, and the other one, in line with sanitized but, paradoxically, ruthless, capitalism, which holds that risks can be fully controlled, unpredictability equals loss, and profits are about sticking to carefully planned strategies.
The most interesting point made by this book is that the arrogance stemming from this encounter lies in the fact that each side, – although, in truth, it seems to be more often the analysts, and more seldom the managers – believes to be the holder of the right reading and vision of things, to the point of invalidating the other’s. The end result is one hiding away from the other, the mangers tricking the analysts into believing they respect them, at the same time getting entangled in a web of lies and practices meant to keep appearances, which eventually lead to collapse and crisis. For more juicy details, read the book. For my part, what I find telling is the apparent divergence between social and political developments – throughout the world – and the homogenizing and standardizing drives which are still being forcefully pushed worldwide by big business and financial institutions, as illustrated by this book and by the news. As people are gradually starting to react and organise themselves against abuses, as protests testify to an explosion of diversity and willingness to take charge of our own lives, many governments yield even further to capitalist drives: for an example, there are talks about a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between Europe and the US which would eventually let big corporations overrule national laws and interests, as well as mechanisms to protect citizens, while servicing their profits. This is already happening in many parts of the world, do we need to institutionalize instead of resisting it?
Let us not be fooled, however: the battle is not between capitalists and the antis, between the rich and the poor. The battle is for gaining the power to define people’s lives. In these times of crisis, when, on the one hand, the sense of words and concepts is destabilised, and on the other, we have not yet new definitions and understandings found, the victor will be the one who most convincingly supplies their reading of the world to a majority of people. It is, therefore, up to us to explore, if we wish to define ourselves as homogeneous, contradiction-free and profit-yielding robots or incongruent, multi-dimensional and vibrant human beings.